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Redefining Milk in the Nigerian context!

According to the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, a 250 ml glass of whole milk from cows can provide a 5-6-year-old child with 48% of their protein requirements and 9% of calories and key micro-nutrients.

Milk also provides adults with calcium, magnesium, selenium, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and vitamin B5.

While Nigerians appear to purchase milk based on this shared belief that it is nutritious, a growing percentage of the products labelled as milk in the country does not contain any protein, or meet the vitamins and mineral requirements.

This further exacerbates the high rates of malnutrition in the country and underscores the urgent need to set and enforce standards, ensure appropriate labelling, educate consumers and unlock the potential in the local Nigerian dairy industry.

The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) defines milk as the normal mammary secretion of milking animals obtained from one or more milking without either addition to it or extraction from it, intended for consumption as liquid milk or further processing.

Despite this definition, Nigeria’s open-air markets and supermarket shelves currently have more sachets or cans of “filled milk” made of  non-animal fats such as vegetable oils, than “full-creammilk” which contains animal fat.

Both products usually have claims of added vitamins and minerals, which are often difficult to verify.

The leading fast-moving consumer goods companies in  Nigeria who package and distribute these products, which are usually reconstituted from different components, argue that they were compelled to introduce “filled milk” to ensure cheaper options given the declining purchasing power of the average consumers.

Others claim that “filled milk” is healthier for individuals who prefer low-cholesterol diets.

However, Sahel Consulting’s field interviews with Nigerian mothers reveal that they are largely unaware about the differences between filled and full cream milk, and only want the most nutritious and yet affordable options for their families.

The development of the local Nigerian dairy industry will play a pivotal role in addressing these challenges by ensuring the enhanced production and distribution of affordable fresh milk and related products such as yogurt, cheese and ice cream in the country.

Over the past 36 months, Sahel Consulting led the implementation of the Nigerian Dairy Development Program (NDDP), in partnership with leading dairy processors in Oyo and Kano States with the support of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), and the state governments.

The program was targeted at improving the livelihoods of smallholder dairy farmers by increasing their productivity and integrating them into the participating processors’ supply chain.

The scope of the program included: the identification and integration of smallholder dairy farmers into the partnering processors’ supply chain; the provision of productivity improvement interventions including training and extension, artificial insemination (AI) and feed and fodder production; and the development and provision of support infrastructure including solar-powered boreholes, milk cans, milk collection centers/points and milk evacuation vehicles.

Sahel Consulting invested in training farmers on good dairy practices which contributed to a significant increase in
milk quality and the quantity supplied to the processors.

Programs such as the NDDP demonstrate the immense potential for the transformation of the Nigerian dairy sector, when key stakeholders in the private, public and nonprofit sectors partner to unlock a critical value chain, which will ultimately ensure that the average Nigerian family has access to affordable, high quality milk.

Nigeria can also learn from countries that have institutionalized the enforcement of quality standards in the milk industry.

For instance, the Dutch government established the Netherlands Controlling Authority for Milk and Milk Products (the COKZ) to monitor the quality and safety of dairy products in the country.

COKZ is an independent organization that offers an objective and professional assessment of quality systems and the quality of dairy products in the entire dairy chain, from the raw material up untildelivery to the final consumer in the Netherlands.

The key success factors of COKZ are its specialization in milk and milk products, and its investment in data.

In the Nigerian context, regulatory agencies such as NAFDAC and Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) should invest in data collection and analysis to understand the level of mislabelling and food fraud present in Nigeria’s milk industry and consequently prosecute any offenders.

Thankfully, NAFDAC recently released the draft ‘Milk and Dairy Products Regulation 2019’ which provides information on the minimum standards for milk and milk products as well as punitive measures for offenders who fail to meet these standards.

An individual offender would be required to pay a fine of N50,000 and face the possibility of imprisonment for up to one year.  A corporate offender would be fined N100,000 once implementation commences.

Sadly, these measures do not currently provide an enough disincentive for offenders and will likely not curb the high levels of fraud and mislabelling in the landscape, unless they are more punitive.

NAFDAC and SON should also enforce safety and quality standards that are consistent with international best
practices.

Finally, consumers should be sufficiently educated about the nutritional content of what they consume.

The accurate and simple labelling of milk and milk products would help immensely to empower Nigerian parents to make more informed decisions when choosing what “milk” products to purchase for their children.

Ayodeji Ojo,
Sahel Consulting Agriculture & Nutrition Limited
www.sahelconsult.com

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